National Advertising Review Board (NARB)

NARB Recommends Verizon Discontinue Claim “Building the most powerful 5G experience for America” But Finds Support for Building Powerful 5G Claim

For Immediate Release 
Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs 
703-247-9330 / press@bbbnp.org 

New York, NY – September 1, 2020 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), a division of BBB National Programs, has recommended that Verizon Communications, Inc. (“Verizon”) discontinue the claim that “Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America.” This claim appeared in two television commercials -- “NFL: 5G Built Right,” which focused on Verizon’s installing its 5G network in the home of the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, and in “5G Built Right: Madison Square Garden,” which highlights Verizon installing a 5G network in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The two commercials were challenged to the National Advertising Division (NAD) by competitor, AT&T Services, Inc. (“AT&T”).   

Verizon appealed NAD’s finding (Case No. 6364) that the claim, “Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America,” in the context of the two commercials, delivered a “present tense message” (i.e., that 5G is available now) as well as a “future” communication (that 5G will be available at  later date). According to Verizon, the “present tense message” is limited to the stadiums shown in the commercials and makes clear Verizon 5G service is not widely available at present. Verizon also appealed NAD’s interpretation of “the most powerful 5G experience” in the challenged claim to be an unqualified superiority claim (i.e., referring to consumer relevant metrics, including speed, coverage, and reliability, as well as metrics related to voice and text).   

The NARB panel concluded that the two commercials did not communicate a “present tense” network message to reasonable consumers, i.e. that the commercials do not communicate that a Verizon 5G network is generally available in the United States but, rather, that Verizon is committed to building a first-rate 5G network.   

The NARB panel also determined that the evidence in the record does not clearly demonstrate what consumers understand “powerful” to mean in “the most powerful 5G experience” in the contexts shown. The panel found that the claim “most powerful” conveys a broad superiority message and that the advertiser would need to demonstrate consumer understanding of the term “powerful” in order to make the claim.   

The panel therefore concluded that absent this evidence of consumer understanding of the term “powerful,” Verizon did not have proper support for the claim “Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America” and recommended that it be discontinued. The panel did note, however, that the claim would have been supported had it been non-comparative because the evidence in the record demonstrated that Verizon’s future 5G network when generally available will provide the essential network metrics, whether one accepts NAD’s interpretation or Verizon’s interpretation of “powerful.”

In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon noted that while it disagreed with the NARB's conclusion that the "most powerful" claim was not substantiated, it agreed to comply with NARB’s decision, noting that it is “pleased the NARB found that Verizon substantiated the claim it is ‘building a powerful 5G experience for America’, and overturned NAD's conclusion that certain claims were implied.”  

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About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org. 

About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the appellate body for BBB National Programs’ advertising self-regulatory programs. NARB’s panel members include 87 distinguished volunteer professionals from the national advertising industry, agencies, and public members, such as academics and former members of the public sector. NARB serves as a layer of independent industry peer review that helps engender trust and compliance in NAD, CARU, and DSSRC matters.